The Primacy of Beauty — Part II
One Moment in Annihilation’s waste, One moment of the Well of Life to taste!
The vast city, the dark train station, the narcotic trade, cement, high rise, anonymity. An ideology of loneliness pervades the modern scape. The world is more peopled today than humans who’d ever lived before 1900. Yet somehow among so many of us, suddenly our need for each other is cut off from its realization. It is a new and seemingly unassuageable call of loneliness.
Along with the machenschaft of the Industrial Age came the simian superstition that modernity meant humanity behaved like a factory. Thus, the propaganda and violent expropriation necessary for humanity’s gears must be decidedly “modern” as well. The realm of politics, which never promotes but only rejects, was elevated above the deeper courses of humanity. “Modern” might as well be defined as “what exists is wrong.”
It is a self-fulfilling prophecy: no matter the thought, it is wrong. In the “modern” realm, every thought must be processed through an infinite regression of fabricated communication and expropriation-serving propaganda.
Doing a favor for your friend of decades is replaced by the commercialization of everything. Social capital is evacuated even as financialization swallows the world. And deeper still, every neighbor must be thought of first as an expropriation funnel, cementing loneliness and separation, and attacking one’s own self-knowledge everywhere as well. Our global order has elicited a grave conceit: without cleaving to the beauty and transcendental meaning man possessed in a prior epoch, we have merely brought forward barbarism into contemporary technology.
The Information Age brand of warfare is directed at the internal guidance system of the individual human being. Delivered through devices and televisions, these platforms have a tendency to anesthetize us from the sharp consequentiality of being. They have the effect of removing the sense of earnest need to develop virtue. And by disengaging the mind and the being in this way, they circumvent the role of thinking in life. A person who doesn’t think cannot be convinced of anything. And thus these platforms engender bigotry and Epimethean traits. Far from enhancing informational uptake, they destroy it.
Furthermore, we humans are not just the sum of our current perceptions and thinking, but also the progressive totality of millions of years of evolved genetic inheritance. This structure underneath our awareness is pre-verbal and too holistic to cognitively seize at one time. It is already hard enough to know what we really are; our internal guidance systems are already foggy. That these platforms at once impair the enhancement of our self-knowledge and collect intelligence on us surreptitiously approaches the criminal.
Is an attack on Man’s internal guidance system a crime? The induction to neurophysiological Epimethean mass consciousness is the advantage of a state apparatus which always seeks to subvert. Epimethean Zeus chained Prometheus to the rock so as to perpetually rip from him the gift of foresight and purpose-driven endeavor, the very thing he proffered to Man, that evolutionary totality of humanness. A tool that anesthetizes the chattel to his bondage is a high-octane revolution in statism. What then are we to do, beset at every turn by the barrage of falsities and those who uncritically agree with them?
We have sacrificed ritual and relationship for appliances, mechanical, electronic and political, which have no power to elevate men’s hearts out of the Epimethian allure toward the totalitarian. Gods and heroes are no longer nearby to dramatize the truths of man’s situation and provoke our faith in what we are. Instead, we remain individually isolated in our materialist finitude. Such are the modern forms of barbarism.
Beauty is The Way
The Chinese saying (da dao wu men), “The Great Way has no door,” calls us to remember that no appliance, no thing, can usher us from one precious truth to the next. That even the yana itself is a transitory device, not a truth itself. It suggests that God is known not through philosophical speculation, but through communion with fellow humans and with a sense of “Now” which is un-disintermediated. We surmise this to mean subjectivity does not challenge full reality. If the fallen world exists, it must exist within our hearts. Great beauty as well must be a product of our persons first, and then of our sense of communion.
The sense of the sacred is essential to human life, and a life with no sense of sacredness is not human. In searching for sacredness, we imbue the world with a soul, a kind of metacognition which gives us a sense of our own locality, in time, in place, and within the nature of circumstances which rhyme across many uncountable domains. It is the sacred which promotes the potential into the actual. The Sacred is the essential mineral of the Promethean character.
The trouble is, for most, now can be a haunting place to live. And what is it, after all? The moment we understand now, it leaves us. The transience of now keeps us from settling. Now is the place where we come face to face with who we really are. Not just the motions of the mind, but the vast underside of the evolutionary iceberg of ourselves, which we do not fully understand and yet often obey unawares.
Now brings with it the realization we may never know who or what we truly are, that once we meet ourselves in the now we find we are often still alone! And so it haunts us. We are like castaways seeking consolation. And with every passing distraction which bears us no answers, we drift further from a sense that the way in which we have lived has meaning. Meaningfulness itself is that oceanic part of ourselves which calls to us from another epoch, across which we stare, yearning for a homecoming from many years at sea.
These platforms are meant to hijack us by our fear of the now, to anesthetize and therefor spare us from this haunting. In doing so, they are meant to strip us of a sense of meaning on which we rely for purpose-driven acts toward a sense of consolation and homecoming. They keep us adrift in a materialism which leaves us without a sense of the spirituality to our being.
And yet somehow, we sense that it is not us waiting for meaningfulness to appear, but instead it is waiting for us. Divinity is known to us in equal measure to this haunted nihilism, that inexorable fate of our aloneness. Divinity is the thing which emerges from the now to make it a homecoming, a belonging. Now is the red pill, a hint of the minerality of God we may come to know if we pay pristine attention, if we rehearse, if we earn the courage to abide its transience.
This rehearsal is found in acts and creations of beauty, from the earnest appreciation in mindfully pouring a cup of tea, to carpentry, making love to a loved one, painting or playing music, resting to contemplate an elegant building. There is a sense of wholeness being rehearsed in these acts. Creating of beauty is an affirmative act of communion. At the moment when our big data-gathering and media platforms reinforce the sense of the impossibility of meaning, and our herding culture follows suit, it is an act of Promethean strength to apprehend that it is the truth which works. To resist taking the cash in hand and instead brave the music of a distant drum — beauty is the gateway to this path, a sacred fountainhead. To see beauty before us is to come in contact with the great evolutionary force down within us, as a property of our own being just as much as the thing we regard. And thus we cannot find beauty through a loss of our own individuality.
Our bodies resonate with the harmonic proportionality and dynamic tension within works of beauty. The meaning which anchors a noble life runs on the operating system of these two forces. Their interplay kindles our private, individuated genius. Expansive possibilities of this operating system held within our primordial selves are never merely regressions to the mean. Despite archaic origins, the “meta-alignment” of the creative agency has within it novelty and futurism. Works providing a sense of newness, surprise, idiosyncrasy, are experienced as beautiful, as opposed to those works which regress to the mean, which are kitsch at best. The truthful novelty at the heart of what is beautiful is a discovery. The emancipation of our awareness out from underneath the dark blanket of prevalent concealment, says both that truth is discovery and that beauty is a communion, a consolation and a homecoming.
The embrace of the now, as an interplay between the all-encapsulating mind force which alienates us, and our harmonic resonance with the primordial, is where we can and must find meaning, and the lever by which we lift up a civilization under such duress.
At Rubaiyat in Marrakech, we hope our prayer to you may bring you a taste from the Well of Life, a remembering of the now like a very old friend.
About Ross Calvin
Ross was the CIO of Agrigentum Capital, Ltd., a private investment manager focused on transitional macro themes and volatility. He is now the founder and CEO of Thermahash, a blockchain infrastructure provider.